Wednesday, February 15, 2017

That's Entertainment

It is the writer's first duty to entertain.

But that doesn't mean you have to entertain everybody. I found James Joyce's Ulysses incredibly entertaining, because I am a lit nerd and recognized more of the references than some. It drives plenty of people away, and there's nothing wrong with that, them, or Ulysses for that matter. I'm sure writing it entertained the hell out of Mr. Joyce.

If the book doesn't entertain you, how can you expect it to entertain anyone else?

I like to learn. So the books I enjoy most introduce me to new discoveries, concepts, people, cultures, history, and so on. Crime fiction introduced me to the underworld, to New Orleans, to the rough living made by ship-scrappers on the coasts of Africa, and so many other new experiences. And this is how I learned to write; to share my own experiences, the little things I have learned about the world and the weird creatures on it called people, and the inexplicable actions they take every day.

In Blade of Dishonor I researched the Devil's Brigade, the First Special Service Force, a joint command between the US and Canada during World War II whose exploits were never, in my opinion, properly told. Tarantino references them in Inglourious Basterds and there was a forgettable movie in the '60s, but these were commandos who struck terror into the hearts of the SS. So I made the centerpiece of my book about them, and one daring soldier chosen to embark on a suicide mission.... well, for the rest, read the book. You'll be entertained.

I heard an amusing story from my sister, about when she worked for an animal welfare charity, about The Neuter Scooter. And that became "The Big Snip," which Lawrence Block chose for his Dark City Lights collection, and Kristine K. Rusch selected for her Year's Best Crime & Mystery Stories 2016

For Bad Boy Boogie I needed to do much more research. I watched fights from security cameras in New Jersey's Eastern State Prison (aka "Rahway"). I read the Louisiana State prison newspaper, The Angolite, to learn about work programs. I found that the American with the most mechanical repair certifications is currently serving a life sentence in Angola prison. I didn't need to research the daily operations down at the Newark docks, because I worked there for eight years, and the stories I told always fascinated people. So the docks are in the book. I worked next to relatives of Vincent "the Chin" Gigante and Lefty Ruggiero during that time. It was... entertaining. 

And I bet reading about it will be, too...

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